US police, paramedics erred earlier than Elijah McClain demise: Inquiry | Black Lives Matter Information
Police and paramedics made several mistakes while 23-year-old Elijah McClain was in Colorado in 2019, which resulted in the death of the unarmed black man, according to a report by independent investigators released Monday.
Police had no legal basis to prevent McClain, walking home from a supermarket, from searching him or using a stranglehold on him when they approached him in the Aurora suburb of Denver on Aug. 24.
McClain went into cardiac arrest after being subdued by three police officers and injected with ketamine, a sedative by paramedics, during the encounter. He died in hospital days later.
During the encounter, the body camera recorded McClain and told police that he does not like being touched and that he is “different”. He can later be heard apologizing and telling the police that he cannot breathe as they are holding him back.
“The body-worn camera audio, limited video and major crimes interviews with officers tell two contrasting stories,” the independent report said.
Protesters in Aurora, Colorado play music to honor Elijah McClain in June [File: Kevin Mohatt/Reuters]“The statements of the officials on the ground and in the subsequent recorded interviews indicate a violent and relentless struggle. The limited video and audio from the body-worn cameras show that Mr. McClain is surrounded by officers, all taller than him, screaming in pain, apologizing, explaining and begging the officers, ”the report continues.
The death of McClain, an amateur violinist who worked as a massage therapist, has been re-examined in the light of racial justice protests that gripped the U.S. in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd by police in May.
Aurora City Council requested the investigation after previous investigations by the city departments found the officers and paramedics involved in McClain’s death had not violated guidelines and prosecutors refused to bring charges.
“No more suspect labeled”
Aurora Police Officer Nathan Woodyard decided, less than 10 seconds after McClain was stopped, “to freeze a potentially amicable encounter with Mr. McClain for no apparent reason,” according to the 157-page report published by the Jonathan Smith, former special litigation leader for the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, as well as a former Arizona police chief and a doctor who heads the Alabama ambulance service.
Also, according to the report, paramedics couldn’t properly examine McClain before injecting him with 500 milligrams of ketamine. This dosage was based on a “grossly inaccurate” estimate that McClain weighed 190 pounds (86 kg), not his actual weight of 140 pounds (63 kg), the report said.
Sheneen McClain speaks outside the Aurora, Colorado Police Department during a rally over the death of her 23-year-old son Elijah McClain [File: David Zalubowski/AP Photo]Mari Newman, an attorney for McClain’s family, said in a statement to Reuters that the independent report “confirms what we’ve known all along: Aurora police and doctors violated the civil rights of Elijah McClain, and Aurora has done everything in her power to sweep his murder under the rug ”.
Meanwhile, McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, told the Denver Post that she was “happy that Elijah is no longer classified as a suspect but a victim”.
McClain’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against the police.
“Fundamental, critical questions could not be asked”
The independent investigation also concluded that an initial investigation by Aurora police was inadequate. Police investigators “did not ask fundamental, critical questions” that would help prosecutors determine whether the violence used was justified.
Police investigators instead asked questions that the report said should elicit comments that would exonerate the officers involved.
“It is hard to imagine other people involved in a fatal incident being interviewed like these officers,” the report said.
Aurora city officials, police and emergency aid should respond to the report on Tuesday.
Aurora Police Officers Erica Marrero, Jaron Jones and Kyle Dittrich reenact a chokehold near a memorial to Elijah McClain [Reuters]The results of the investigation ordered by the city council are the first to publish multiple ongoing investigations into the killing.
The Colorado Attorney General has asked a grand jury to look into the case and determine if criminal charges are warranted. The Justice Department is investigating whether officials violated McClain’s civil rights.
One of the officers involved in the incident, Jason Rosenblatt, was fired after colleagues sent him a picture mimicking the stranglehold near where McClain was stopped. Rosenblatt replied: “haha”.
The other officers involved at the stop, Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard, are still employed in the department.